The Best Hikes in John Muir Wilderness

248 Triplog Reviews in the John Muir Wilderness
Most recent of 77 deeper Triplog Reviews
60 mi • 20,000 ft aeg
North-lake to South-lake loop
 Wow this is an amazing loop in the Sierra's ! I haven't posted some of my latest hikes but had to do this one before too long.
This is a 60 mile near-loop hike going up and down 3 passes for a total of 20k up and down and top elevation at ~ 12k, low at 8k.
So it was up out of tree line then back down to the trees. Lakes and streams and flowers everywhere ! Stunning views of the peaks every day. Scenic meadows, one with a coyote. The trail is very clear yet can be quite rocky at times, hit a small amount snow near Muir Pass. Alot of people out there as part of the loop is on the popular John Muir / PCT trail. Incredibly I met an AZ trail hiker I met in Feb by Muir Pass on this trip ! His nickname is "Cheezit". At a stream crossing I fell face first but was ok ! My gps went flying into the stream, lost ! Next time it's getting tied down ! Its terrifying falling out there, but that's what makes it exciting ! Its a bit hard going up to 11k+ , mostly tiring but you get used to it and now that Im back home I feel very strong on hills. Alot of trout fishers , most lakes have trout. Actually saw some rangers ! Ok Ill post some more AZ trips, headed to Yosemite in Sept, Grand Canyon November , AZ trail anytime ! The best site that describes this hike can be found here ... -overview/

212 mi • 46,000 ft aeg
John Muir Trail
 Hiked the John Muir Trail, heading southbound, from Tuolumne Meadows to Whitney Portal. Including a climb over Kearsarge Pass for resupply, the total distance was apx. 212 miles. I went solo, but can't really say that I was alone. I met a lot of cool people on the trail.

The smoke from the Ferguson fire was somewhat of an issue, but not enough to really affect progress on the trail. You will notice the smoke in some of the pictures. Once I got south of Vermillion Valley Resort, it was pretty much completely clear.

One of the aforementioned cool people was a gentleman from Cave Creek. It was great to meet someone who was familiar with our local trails. We talked about how important a resource HAZ is for us AZ residents.

It was a great experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can free up a few weeks.

30.5 mi • 10,759 ft aeg
 Mount Williamson had been on my radar for some time. Driving down Highway 395, it's impossible to miss. Sure, Whitney is taller, but this one always just looked more fun - and stately! I also knew that there was a popular sense of dread around this one, largely because of its approach on the Shepherds Pass Trail. It's rare to find a 14er to climb that asks you to cover 10,000'+ of gain by its standard route - and that includes some scrambling (albeit brief). Suffice it to say, the allure became stronger the more I read about it.

I also realized how much more fun one of these efforts is when you get the right crew together. And we really did have a great group for this one. In the end, I convinced (suckered) Chumley, Taylor, Sam, and also my friend and trusty big mountain partner Shawn from Colorado to join. He invited his fellow Denver(-ite?) Joe, who'd climbed Orizaba with us this past January. I never thought 5 others would be down for this 3 day adventure, but there we were, permits in hand and packs up on Friday morning ready to go.

The first mile of the trail stays in the canyon, and is a bit overgrown. It got me worried about the switchbacks above I knew were to come, and the condition of the trail there. Those worries evaporated, though, the moment we left the 4th creek crossing and started up the hill. The Shepherds Pass Trail is in great shape, and it felt like we were cruising up to the Symmes Creak saddle. Everyone felt great after that first 2700' push, and there was even excited chatter there among the group about maybe pushing above our planned Anvil Camp. The drop to water near Mahogany Flat and the abrupt restart quelled that chatter, and we were all happy and ready to see camp, especially since minutes after everything was set up, the sky opened up. A gentle but annoying rain full most of the afternoon. Anvil really is about the only shady, tree-covered spot on the route, so it makes sense to take advantage of it.

Up for an alpine start and on the trail at 4 a.m. under nice conditions, we strung out a bit as everyone settled into their pace. The nice trail helped progress up to Shepherds Pass, where we enjoyed sunrise. Regrouping after some scree-slogging, we enjoyed some relative flat as we all eyed the route up Tyndall en route to the Williamson Bowl. I'm always struck by the contrast of the slope on the Sierra Crest: rugged and sharp to the east, gentler to the west, at least from what I've seen so far. Williamson Bowl was great from a scenery standpoint, but you have to carefully pick your way through the boulders. Again, I'd heard a lot of belly-aching about this stretch prior to the trip, but honestly, it's not bad. The boulders are mostly solid, and it's generally clear where to go. At the base of the gully, Chums and Joe couldn't contain their excitement and busted up, while the other four of us settled into a nice pace and steadily made our way up. We nervously watched the clouds start to build near 8 am (what is this - Colorado???), but knew we'd be able to get up and down before the light show started.

Sam and Shawn pulled ahead of Tay and I a bit as we neared the much-talked-about chimney. We watched them - well, Shawn - start up the wrong way, but eventually get into the crack system and make his way up. Tay and I followed behind, and we popped out to an amazing view of the summit plateau and the Owens Valley, greeted by the already-summited Chumley, who had eschewed his summit beer for a photo op and was hauling it back to camp. We passed Joe coming down as we headed up, and had sweet summit success with cloud views. Last of the top 10 US 14ers done for Shawn and I! The weather made it so we couldn't stay long, and down the chute we went. Shawn and Sam moved ahead again, but waited for Tay and I at a prime lakeside lunch/nap spot. The rains chased away our laziness and made us leave Williamson Bowl with some urgency as we watched Mt. Williamson get enveloped in dark clouds. Good timing on our part. The trip back to our temporary Anvil home was smooth and everyone was all smiles around camp. Jack and Captain were passed around and it was great to see everyone laughing and smiling after the big day. Sure, there were some expletives hurled my way throughout the day, but what's a good trip without that?

The way home on the final day was fast, and the weekend was over before we knew it. The climb back up the Symmes Saddle wasn't too bad, but good thing we started early as hiding from the sun isn't easy there. We even had a well-timed 9L cameo at the saddle! It was great to see him and hike the last few miles back together. Joe went back up to get Tyndall that morning, so didn't join our hike out or parking lot celebration. The AZ group took off to start their long drive home after a good amount of hanging out, and Joe was only about 45 minutes behind from when they left. For the three of us, it was back to Reno, cold beers, and thoughts of what to do next, although we had to dodge some pretty impressive thunderstorms on the way home. Thanks to all of you guys for making it happen - great trip!
172 mi • 31,180 ft aeg
Onion Valley to Happy Isles
 This was my solo northbound journey from Onion Valley to Mammoth Lakes, CA and then from Tuolumne Meadows to Happy Isles northern in Yosemite Valley to complete my final 160 miles of the John Muir Trail. I hiked for 172 total miles over 14 days which included the entrance in from Onion Valley, 8 alpine passes, and some side trail mileage done at Muir Trail Ranch, Red's Meadow, Devil's Postpile, and Tuolumne Meadows.

The original plan was to hike for 18 days straight, meeting up with a friend on day 11 who would join me for the last 7 days. Part of that final week would be spent covering 4 days of trail that I had already completed back in 2015. When my friend had to cancel after I was already on the trail, I chose to take 4 zero days in Mammoth Lakes to heal my feet and enjoy some luxuries. I reconvened with the JMT for the final 3 days of trail that I had yet to complete, making this a 2-section adventure all in one trip to close the gaps of the remaining miles of this amazing trail.
20.84 mi • 7,162 ft aeg
 With Kilimanjaro coming in a few short weeks I really needed to get some more mental prep work done. Whitney is something that is great at being a test of your mental mettle.

On the journey out we stayed in Anaheim for a couple days prior to visit some friends. I really didn’t think much about it until the drive to Lone Pine when I was thinking about the ocean. And now the first doubts started to creep in. I had been scouring the various message boards and groups to get as much info about the trail conditions for several weeks. WIth the record snow in the Sierra’s now melting, that alone had planted the seed of doubt into my mind.

I started up the trail around 1:30AM. Instantly I had to backtrack as I left my camera back in the car. I snatched that and started to head back up again. A few minutes later I noticed that my backside was wet. My Camelbak was leaking. It was a good thing I was dropped off at the trailhead otherwise I might have packed it in. (Ok, not really) Turns out, I think at least, the connection with the tube and bladder came loose. All I know is that it didn’t present any issues for the rest of the day.

With the amount of snow the mountains received this winter the stream crossings were going to be their own mini games. The first crossing was crazy! It was pretty unsettling starting across a stream and not being able to see the bottom, nor the other side, due to the darkness. The really creepy part is the sound. It sounds angry, powerful, and downright hateful. One mistake and it is ready to send you rushing down, down, down.

I was shocked that I passed two separate groups on their way down. I made small talk with the first group, about trail conditions and the alpine start; but the second group was an Asian collection who didn’t say much.

The log bridge crossing was hairy. One of the logs broke and is angled weirdly, necessitating a leap. The water underneath the logs (just barely) is rushing by in a low rumble as well.

I had read that the snow abruptly starts right past Lone Pine lake and that was spot on. The sign stating that you need a permit to proceed was buried. I grew up on the east coast, in the lake effect snow belt of upstate NY, but was still in awe. The snow, at times, caused the trail to disappear into the night. It made for quite an ordeal in trying to follow it. There is quite a well trodden path in the snow but it can easily be missed in a few spots that transition from dirt to snow.

The waterfall by Outpost Camp was monstrous. The sound literally shook the ground as you ascended around it. I was making decent time at this point. I took the approach of just going but not overly fast. I wanted to try to maintain a decent clip but able to breath and talk.

Approaching Trailside Meadow the trail is submerged under ankle deep water for the majority of it, with some points being at mid-calf. Thankfully the gore-tex boots I have, along with the gaiters, kept my feet dry throughout this trip.
Much of the route past this point is directly over snowfields. This presented a whole new set of issues. The day before I read a triplog about how a guy fell through into waist deep water. Well, with that vision in my mind I stumbled upon the first of many cavities in the snow fields that harbored raging water. Now, not only would a spill into one of these end your summit attempt it very well could end you. If you were sucked down under the snow I can’t imagine any sort of positive outcome to that situation.

I reached Trail Camp a little before sunrise. I strapped on my crampons, pulled out my axe, and started weaving my way up the chute. The sunrise was breathtaking; just like the climb. The snow was crisp and firm making the traction easy to be had. Oxygen was the rare commodity and I fell into a routine of a few steps followed by a rest period and a few breaths. The chute took forever and a day. I managed to catch up to a couple groups, who had mercilessly been sending chunks of snow down on me throughout, right near the top. We chatted a bit about the conditions and then parted ways.

From Trail Crest to the summit the trail is basically clear. I really had to mentally force myself through this section. The altitude hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t in a headache or nausea kind of way; just in a way that sapped all energy and desire to continue. This is what I came for, although I didn’t want to deal with it. I just focused on the summit hut. I went when I could, I stopped when I had to. It was slow going, but eventually I reached the base of the plateau. Typically, the main trail sweeps around the western side of the plateau but with the snow the chosen way was climbing the boulder field of the southern face (I hope my sense of direction is accurate).

The summit hut had its door blown off this winter. Inside, from the ground to the roof, was snow. I am pretty amazed that a couple people were able to survive in there, overnight, a few weeks back.

I made it back down to Trail Crest and had a decision to make; either glissade down the chute or plunge step. I decided to plunge step to play it safe. It is remarkable how fast the descent is compared to the ascent.

Upon reaching Trail Camp I ran out of water. I had brought up a full Camelbak of 100oz. I pulled up the lake and got out my filter. Turns out (and I should have tested this beforehand) that my filter was busted. So I was left with either no water or drinking unfiltered water. I chose the unfiltered water approach on the assumption that I could make 6 miles before my intestines exploded. With all the water out there I figured my odds were good. Going on a day and a half later and my stomach still doesn’t hate me.

Just below Trail Camp I bumped into a solo SAR member from Inyo County SAR. We chatted for a good amount of time about what I saw, how far I made it, my gear, etc. Apparently with all of the tragedies that have already transpired this year on Whitney they are out trying to do preventative work.
The stream crossings that were troublesome in the early morning hours were downright terrifying during the midday melt period. Thankfully I made it through them all but I am not so sure it isn’t just dumb luck.

Overall, my 4th ascent of Whitney was my most challenging to date. The conditions out there were no joke, but more importantly, the mental aspect of it was tough. It is really easy to keep going when it is a new peak, trail, etc; but when it is something you’ve seen before, it can become easy to throw in the towel when the going gets tough. The lessons and experience garnered from this adventure will last me a lifetime.
11.97 mi • 3,076 ft aeg
Chocolate Lakes & Treasure Lakes
 We started this hike from South Lake. The trailhead is before the bridge crossing the creek. We had a little trouble finding it.

Our hike went up to Long Lake, then to Ruwau Lake, then Chocolate Lakes and Bull Lake. Back to the main trail then over to Treasure Lakes, and back down to South Lake.

Another awesome day in beautiful surroundings. Kelly and Denny are always great company. Fun trip. Hard not to come back to the Sierras next year... :)
11.97 mi • 3,076 ft aeg
Chocolate Lakes & Treasure Lakes
 This was our third day of hiking. Due to the accurate high wind advisory we chose a plan B hike again. We took two shorter hikes and added them together. They were rated 6&7 for scenery and 6&7 for solitude. Put them together and throw in a bonus lake and the hike should be at least a solid 8. A little cooler today but two layers seem to do the trick.
We started at South Lake with a steady climb for the first mile or so. We planned on hiking to the second Chocolate Lake turn off and then make a decision. We decided there to not do Bishop Pass. This is were Long Lake is. I think this was my favorite lake of the day. You had the long lake with lots of grasses and the Peaks in the background 8) . From there you take the trail to Ruwau Lake. From there you have to find a use trail to take over to Chocolate Lakes. Once John found the trail it was easy to follow. I thought Ruwau was nicer then the Chocolate Lakes but still all good. From there you hit Bull Lake then back to the main trail. Bull Lake had a good view of Chocolate Mountain. On they way back Kelly said we might as well hit Marie Louise lake too. She said it was only half a mile out. :roll: ;) Seemed longer :) . The trout taunted John and he almost went in after them. From there it was back to decide if we wanted to do Treasure Lakes. It's only 2.2 miles each way, what the heck. This was a cool area and had some nice creeks running. We didn't realize it was going to be as much climb as it was. It was worth it. Very nice. Took a nice break here and soaked it all in. From there John got his second or 3rd or ? wind and we were off. Our fastest two miles of the weekend were our last :o :lol: . Another great day hiking with these two. 12 hours with a stop for a burger and we would all be home safe and sound dreaming of next years trip. A big thanks to John and Kelly for making this another great trip. Like HAZ they Rock!! :y:
11.97 mi • 3,076 ft aeg
Chocolate Lakes & Treasure Lakes
 our third hike started from south lake, giving us a representative hike from each trailhead
we originally planned to go up to bishop pass and find the overlook into dusy basin
it was so windy monday morning that we got to long lake and executed another plan b, putting together two alternative hikes in denny's book: the chocolate lakes loop and an out and back to treasure lakes
every hike from north lake, sabrina lake and south lake goes up at a pretty good grade, and bishop pass trail was no exception
two miles and 1200 feet to scenic long lake, which the trail then followed
just short of three miles, we made the call to take the trail to ruwau lake, as clouds were racing by on bishop pass
a good ascent to the lake, where we took a short break
found the cairned use trail up and over a saddle to the first chocolate lake
a chain of three, and a nice basin before dropping to bull lake
we rejoined bishop pass trail and went back north, taking a little extra credit hike up to marie louise lakes
no one else there as we had some lunch
returned to the treasure lakes turnoff and discovered there was more elevation gain in store
descended to cross several drainages into south lake, then climbed several hundred feet to treasure lakes
well worth it, as this was a beautiful area
spent some time here for photos and snacks
headed back to bishop pass trail, enjoying good views of south lake and plenty of running creeks along the way
had originally planned to camp another night, but revised that to head home after the hike
done hiking at 2:00 p.m.
denny treated us to burgers at appleby's halfway home while we caught a little monday night football
back to the valley at 1:00 a.m.
nice bit of driving, denny :) thank you
three very different hikes from different trailheads, all within ten miles or so
enough we didn't do that could fill another trip
thanks to john for setting the pace and doing the off trail route finding, and to denny for doing all the research from his sierra book
since i was the only one who could read the fine print, i was map-reader and gps route-keeper
a great time with the boys :y:
what's next?
15 mi • 3,039 ft aeg
Hungry Packer Moonlight & Midnight Lakes
 This is another hike out of my Sierra book. It says it's fourteen out and back to Hungry Packer Lake. That was our plan today. From there we would see if we felt like any side trips. The book gives it a 9 for scenery and 4 for solitude.The scenery was great and we did see a fair amount of people. I can see why, this is a cool area with a little less aeg. I agree with johnlp. You could set up a base camp at Blue Lake and do lots of exploring in the area. The terrain on this hike had a great variety and kept your exploring side intrigued the whole time. The trail was pretty easy to follow and in pretty good shape. Blue Lake looks like the place to camp and we saw a few people camped there. Looked like a good place to swim (temperature willing), fish, filter, or just hang out. From there you pass a few lakes with interested names like Dingleberry, Topsy Turvy, and Sailor. Maybe not quite as scenic as the bigger ones but there really are no bad ones :) . On to Hungry Packer :D . It's these higher lakes with the Peaks in the background that wow you :o . We took a break here and the clouds starting building. Now to decide on side trips. There is no slowing our fearless leader (LP) down. He found a use trail to Moonlight Lake better than anticipated so we went for it. It turned to rock slabs and boulders so it got harder to follow. You can kind of see where a lake might be and work your way over. Cool one. From there it was back to the main trail and then the Midnight Lake junction. Lets do it! John led the way and we were there in no time 8) . The clouds were still building so we didn't stay long. We got a few drops of ice but never had to put on the rain coats. The clouds seem to like the higher lakes and we were good by the time we hit Blue Lake. A little cold for LP to swim but we filtered and got a break in. From there we cruised on back to the car and drove back to base camp. We had time to put on our Sunday best 8-[ and head to Bishop. Kelly treated us to a nice meal :thanx: and half a Cardinals game ](*,) . Good Times! :y:
15 mi • 3,039 ft aeg
Hungry Packer Moonlight & Midnight Lakes
 sunday's hike began at sabrina lake trailhead
a steady climb on sabrina basin trail took us along and above sabrina lake
we stopped at blue lake and dingleberry lake on the way
up higher, several creek crossings and an easier grade through aspen, pine, meadows and granite boulders
took a nice break at hungry packer lake
went off trail to moonlight lake, backtracked and made a visit to midnight lake
by this time, we could see clouds building, and even got a few sprinkles
stayed just ahead of any storms on the way back
skies cleared but the wind picked up
we drove into bishop for burgers and the first half of the cardinals game
good longer hike through beautiful terrain

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